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Learning from the masters

How leading retailers are setting the bar high for true personalization

Personalization. It’s the new industry buzzword, variously touted as the solution for a host of branding and marketing, and recently, even merchandising, problems. But it seems to mean different things to different people, and as hard as it is to define, it’s even more challenging to execute. But with challenge comes opportunity.

By looking to some of today’s leading retailers, we can see that delivering truly targeted communications can be the key to sustaining and growing a loyal customer base.

We know that customers want personalization — 69% of consumers say they prefer to receive personalized communications based on their shopping history. This demand for personalization grew 11% from 2015 to 2016. Yet despite growing promises of relevance by technology vendors, consumers say many companies are still missing the mark.

In today’s world of digital communication, it’s become very easy to send blanket emails to an entire database of customers for virtually nothing. It’s pretty incredible how cheaply we can now reach everyone. But we have to resist the urge.

In the 2015 Precima Customer Centricity survey, 50% of respondents said they didn’t feel they were benefitting from the collection of their personal data. Many said they were seeing no personalization at all and were frustrated by retailers’ generic communications. As customer expectations of personalization increase, the bar for what constitutes true customer focus continues to rise.

Consumers, as I said, have higher expectations of us. And there are several leading retailers that are doing a great job of meeting those expectations, which creates a great opportunity for others to learn and follow suit.

The PC Plus program by Loblaw, for example, is the first “digital-only” program that rewards customers the more it knows them. All offers are targeted and personal — rewards improve as the customer’s data gets richer, and the better the customer, the better the rewards. That’s personalization – and the new future of loyalty.

Another great example is Amazon Go’s new shopping technology (currently in testing at a beta store in Seattle, which Amazon plans to launch to the public in 2017). Amazon Go is a checkout-free shopping experience that alleviates a major customer pain point: waiting in line. The Just Walk Out technology will allow customers to pick out their items and then just leave the store, their order automatically processed electronically and charged to their Amazon account. The system will track when an item is taken off a shelf, which ideally will allow it to send personalized upsell or cross-sell offers to a specific customer right on the spot. If this works as the company envisions, it’ll enable Amazon to offer a whole new level of personalization.

Companies and consumers alike have a clear interest in effective personalization, and there are some incredible new innovations in analytics and other tools that can help companies get there. With a willingness to invest the time and money required to do it right, today’s organizations can use personalization to build strong, loyal customer relationships. The data shows that customers want this. As most customers report that personalization increases their trust in a brand trust and loyalty, it’s a clear win for retailers, too.

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